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Starring Role

Over the years with Al Futtaim and now, as CEO of Blue Star International FZCO, Dawood Bin Ozair has left an impressionable mark on the HVACR landscape in the region, particularly the UAE. Here, he shares his life journey and, in the process, gives an invaluable glimpse of the growth of development of the industry

| | Jul 10, 2019 | 9:06 pm
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THE BEGINNINGS

I was born in Aligarh in October 1950. Aligarh is a small city near Delhi, in northern India. It is famous for the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), established about 120 years ago. The University was founded by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who conceived the idea of an educational institution of higher learning while visiting Oxford and Cambridge.

I am proud of AMU, because historically speaking, my family belongs to Aligarh. My father was among the first generation in a family of landowners to study and work. Prior to that, the family members preferred not to work, as most of the jobs were under the British Government.

My father was a keen student. He studied and eventually became Professor of Mathematics at AMU. Thanks to his intellectual and academic influence, the rest of my family remains connected to the field of education in some way or other.

I did my schooling at Minto Circle, a famous public boarding school, again established by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. To this day, it is well known, as many top Indian personalities have passed through its portals. After school, I studied Mechanical Engineering at Zakir Hussain College of Engineering & Technology, AMU, which I passed out of in 1973.

DUBAI-BOUND

After AMU, I began working in Delhi – first, at APJ and then at Engineering Projects (India), a Government of India enterprise. In 1974, I moved to Bombay – as Mumbai was known, then – and joined the TATA group, where I worked in different organisations, like TOMCO and Voltas.

During my time with Voltas, the TATA group and Dubai’s Al Futtaim Group were in talks for a high-level joint venture relationship. The talks fructified into action, and this led to many TATA employees travelling to Dubai to join Al Futtaim; I was one of them.

I came to Dubai in 1980. At the time, Mumbai was a far more advanced and attractive city than Dubai. However, there was a certain vibe about Dubai – that here is a place where the future is being built.

I began work at Al Futtaim Engineering, which at that point in time had businesses related to scaffolding and air conditioning. Al Futtaim was a representative of such well-known brands as AIRTEMP, a product of US-based Chrysler Corporation and, by virtue of that, was undertaking sizable air conditioning projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Al Futtaim Engineering then merged with Al Futtaim Electronics, which was managing the Sanyo brand. And so it came to be that I found myself looking after the Sanyo air conditioning business.

Sanyo became the leading air conditioning product in those days and had the highest market share. Al Futtaim Engineering grew in different dimensions. It acquired franchises of Toto & Sphinx sanitaryware and Hitachi elevators and, overall, became a very successful operation.

In 1997, I left Al Futtaim and joined GIBCA, again a very big group, with its headquarters in Sharjah. It represented Hitachi Airconditioning and had several other brands of its own. The group undertook important air conditioning projects in the defence sector and in the Northern Emirates.

I worked at GIBCA only for two years and moved back to Al Futtaim, where I got an opportunity as Head of Panatech Engineering, a company that represented the Panasonic brand. This again was a very challenging assignment for me, as it involved not only air conditioning but also electronics and telecommunication businesses.

Panasonic was a well-known brand – the best in the world – and so I looked at my return to Al Futtaim as an exciting career move. Having worked with Sanyo, it was again an upwards migration for me to work with Panasonic. Regular interaction with Japanese engineers and personnel at manufacturing units gave me immense experience related to the products and technologies. It was interesting to visit their research and development plants, which were extremely futuristic in nature.

In 2001, I was transferred back to Al Futtaim Engineering as General Manager, heading the operations, which consisted of the complete portfolio of various businesses, including elevators, air conditioning, scaffolding and services.

My move to general management immediately preceded the boom in the UAE, and we geared up to take maximum advantage of it. Starting 2002, the market picked up in a big way, and Emaar, Nakheel and most of the other private developers came up with mega project plans for the region. Today, I can proudly say that the Dubai landscape has been built in front of me, and I can equally proudly say, in my own humble way, that I was associated with some of the very prestigious projects in the region.

The business grew, and so did Al Futtaim Engineering. We also spread into other countries, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt, taking up some major MEP projects in them.

In 2016, I retired from Al Futtaim as Senior Managing Director of Al Futtaim Electronics, Engineering and Technologies. My original plan was to take a long holiday and set up my own business. However, my relationship with Blue Star, which came to be established when I was at Al Futtaim, beckoned me, and I joined Blue Star in 2017 as CEO of the company’s International Operations.

WHAT BLUE STAR MEANS TO ME
Blue Star again is a futuristic organisation, leading manufacturers of air conditioning and refrigeration systems from India. It is a 75-year-old organisation, listed in the Mumbai Stock Exchange. It is well known for its high-class manufacturing of air conditioning systems, right from window air conditioners to multi-splits, and from package ACs to VRF systems and chillers up to 500 tonnes of refrigeration (TR).

Blue Star is also known for undertaking MEP projects and services. It has set up five state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in India and has invested heavily in research and development, which is the reason for its success and progress.

Blue Star was already distributing its products in the Middle East for the last 50 years, but in 2017, it set up Blue Star International at Dubai Airport Free Zone to look after the complete distribution of Blue Star products in the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia. The company also has two joint-venture relationships in Qatar and Malaysia to undertake large MEP projects. Blue Star International oversees the distribution of its products in 18 countries, including the JVs.

In April 2019, Blue Star established an onshore company, Blue Star Systems and Solutions LLC to undertake air conditioning and refrigeration projects and services in the UAE. The move enables Blue Star to provide end-to-end solution to the customers, from products to installation and from execution to services and spare parts.

MENTORS IN LIFE

I won’t name one but several. Firstly, my parents, who taught me how to face the world. And then, while in school, Nehru became a mentor, as at the time, he was leading the country and was fondly known as “Chacha Nehru” by all children. And then, when I migrated to the industry, the visionary J.R.D. Tata became a mentor. I looked up to him for the dedicated manner in which he approached his work to strengthen the Tata group.

Currently, I regard His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai as a mentor. He has contributed immensely to developing the country into a leading one in the world. I can honestly say that no country in the world would have seen the progress the UAE has seen. I remember, when I first visited the United States in 1986, the person at the immigration counter did not know about Dubai, when I told him I was coming from there. Today, when you visit the United States and interact with the Americans, you get a strong feeling that everybody wants to visit Dubai and see this great place.

MY FAMILY

Broadly speaking, this region has progressed so well and is associated with peace and harmony; that way, it is an example to the world. I have spent 39 years of my life in Dubai and would like to spend the remaining part of my life in this region. Dubai is my home; and it is home to my children and grandchildren.

I am blessed with a lovely family. My wife, Nuzhat is an educationist and has taught in well-known institutions in India and the UAE. She has a master’s degree in Psychology from India and a master’s degree in Education from the United States. She is currently teaching at Middlesex University.

I have three sons, all of whom were born and schooled in Dubai. They went to the United States for their higher education. Two of them are working here, and one is in the United States. I have four grandchildren, who keep my wife and I active and busy.

WHAT I DO IN MY ME-TIME

I love to swim, play golf and walk, depending on the season. I like to paint and to spend time in my garden. I have a passion for growing flowers and vegetables. I love to swim, play golf and walk depending on the season. I am particularly fond of golf, having played it for several years. During my Al Futtaim days, many of my Japanese associates were very fond of golf, and so it was natural to develop a liking for it. Today, you have plenty of options for playing golf in Dubai, but in those days, we used to play golf in the sand in Dubai.

I see a lot of similarities between the game and what I do as an engineer. Golf is about planning, and every hole is a challenge. You have to think your way through a round. Much like with engineering, where you have to think and plan before taking any action.


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